May 6, 2012 at 01:35pm
When we here at GreatNonprofits announced the winners of the 2012 Green Awards, we saw some fascinating trends. The organizations with the most reviews are far from the usual suspects; the leading nonprofits are small and local and frequently boast uncommon and niche missions.
One of the contest winners was the Bat World Sanctuary, based in Mineral Wells, TX. The nonprofit, dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of bats has racked up 144 reviews and have nearly a five-out-of-five star average. The Sanctuary works to protect wild bat colonies and provides sanctuary for non-releasable bats.
Reviews ranged from kids who got help with school projects through the nonprofit, to wildlife rehabilitators. One reviewer stressed the importance of the organization’s educational component, “I feel that Bat World Sanctuary is doing a great deal to educate the public on the importance of bats, along with protecting these incredible creatures.” Another reviewer mentions needing help identifying bats, writing “The only group that responded to my plea for information was Bat World Sanctuary.”
The contest, which allowed local environmental nonprofits to be honored through online volunteer, client and donor reviews, was created as a way to bring attention to under-the-radar organizations doing exemplary work to promote sustainability and the environment. More than 130 nonprofits participated.
Another winning organization, WiserEarth, hopes to spread the messages of sustainability by offering a website covering eco-issues in Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese and Indonesian. Volunteers help with translation. Reviewers were impressed with the global and local opportunities the site provides:
“I am passionate about the potential impact nonprofits can have then they work together to build movements, instead of trying to “own” the cause or work themselves. As such, I was incredibly happy to work with WiserEarth to collaborate on local groups and events around the world that meant local organizations could come together, share knowledge, and grow together. WiserEarth’s collaborative approach is refreshing and promising!”
The Professional Animal Retirement Center shows 15,000 people around their sanctuary every year. Visitors learn about more than 45 exotic and endangered former “pets” and retired performers, and about conservation of endangered species and habitats.
“I love visiting,” writes one reviewer. “It was such an up close experience in seeing the animals, and the care that is tendered them is so very clear.”
Mindy Stinner, Executive Director at Conservators’ Center, another winning organization, says she entered the contest to get feedback from volunteers. The reviews the organization received “brought some of our hardworking employees and volunteers to tears,” she says. More importantly though, the reviews highlighted what people like most about the enter, which Stinner says has helped it better refine what it does to ensure that visitors walk away determined to spread the word.
The results of this contest is consistent with the overall ratings of nonprofits on the website. Small and local nonprofits consistently get higher satisfaction ratings from volunteers and donors than larger and national ones.
Why is this? We believe that smaller organizations provide meaningful opportunities for volunteers to do real programmatic work – not just stuff mailers. They also provide more hands-on opportunities for donors. Donors might be able to visit the nonprofit, or meet with the staff or participate as a volunteer on a project. Smaller organizations are probably also a lot more “high-touch” – they can respond quickly to donor or volunteer requests or feedback.
And most importantly, the work of local organizations is more visible in the community where donors and volunteers live.
A sort of Zagat guide of candid reviews of nonprofits, GreatNonprofits.org provides a platform for those who want to share their experience and also functions as a library of honest, user-generated content to aid potential volunteers and donors in their search for the right nonprofit.
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